Two primary names for
the December full moon here in the States are “cold winter moon” and “long winter night’s moon”. Then there is a third name, “moon before yule”.
Now is the time of year when the sun’s path courses as low on the horizon as it will ever course toward a sol novus coming to presence (but not quite yet) and the moon’s path across the ocean of night is as high in the heavens as it is ever going to shine. At its full at the end of this month we will have gone beyond the winter solstice.
The solstice is that night with the shortest day of whom the virgin and child by analogy render and re-story. And this means the full moon on the 31st will be filled with the gentler sun, the Mary, meek and mild who, transfigured, shines through the window of our times the first day of the New Year likened unto flowing light. This light is the Mary of the in-most life who brings once more to our lives the vision of the divinely human spiritualized mixture, our ‘giant’ being of inmost delight composed in two substances and one light.1
I am writing this essay at the dark moon interval when the newly crescent moon (which falls this year on the 14th-15th of the month) is exactly half-way between the two full moons that occur the beginning and end of this same month. The moon is waxing new right now and it will soon be full just after Christmas and winter solstice for the second time on December 31st. Then, the moon will rise at sunset the last day of the month coincidentally, the last day of the year. As nature profoundly expresses it, the soul of the world at Christmas is three times dark and, precisely this year, when the blue, full moon occurs on December 31st. It is the end of the day, the end of the month, the end of the solar year.
Once I wrote my sister, Debbie a poem many years ago to describe the psychological situation.
All that sleeps
Sleeps yet in Bethlehem
It must awaken there
Behind closed gate
Hear past itself a trumpeter
That no ear hears
Call past itself to life
What it must live. Then,
By what power forms such light
at its waning moon & close of eye
& what by holy vigil waits
through such decembering
preceding you, seen past, seen through
-All That Sleeps, Like A Woman Falling © 2004 p 73
We are thrown back into such a spaceless space in such a timeless time with neither beginning nor ending to be had. Here we are to rest upon the topos of our symbolic lives.
When A Moon Turns Blue
There is an argument going on about the blue full moon and when it occurs. Some say it already occurred the beginning of December and this full moon at month’s end is really the late fall moon. (This is exactly the opposite image as that I describe!) So I now can note the paradoxical nature in the sol of blue that describes this moon in how this psychic change occurs. It occurs as if out of the blue. Later in this essay, Hugo Rahner will reveal by analogy in a turn of trope even more. The in-most part of man’s soul, he elucidates, is the moon. The in-most part is the ‘she’ who gives birth on earth to god through the religious imagination. This is the religious psyche’s expression of the fantasy of male maternity; man becomes a father unto himself it almost seems. Of course, woman be-comes her own father, too, this way. Both are becoming reacquainted with the fathering spirit who wakes them from within a depth experience in nonexperience they must learn to recognize and live. That awakening will always carry the potential to do something different to this story of the one in the two who is a third. One also realizes the year god comes very much clothed this year, 2010 in a little boy blue. But, for a brief moment, let me retell the story how the blue moon came to be understood in the cultural imagination as referring to the second full moon in a month.
The year is 1988. Folklore and modern technology unwittingly conjoin to promote a new definition for a blue moon. By calling the blue moon the second full moon in a month and repeating this over and over on the internet and through the modern forms of news media, the latter image takes hold collective psyche and becomes what most people imagine a blue moon to be today. It is beyond the scope of my essay to take up this argument in astronomy here but to accept the image collective psyche uses imaginally to presence something invisible that is be-ing and coming to presence ‘now’.
The second full moon of December has a unique image attached to it inherited from antiquity. The next essay I write will look at this image more closely. The image is “a moon without a month” and this imaginal body marks a realm of imagination not calculable, nor accountable to time’s history of images which changes from time to time, aion to aion in how it sees a metaphorical statement. Such metaphorical rendering is aionios, not limited or pinned to the interpretation of another neither of another age nor another time.
Adjectivally speaking, the moon’s metaphorical nature, its blue soul simply is. Without beginning or ending to its story, the moon’s sol is its soul and at the close of the old year shares with us once more its revelation of a timeless love story. As everybody already knows, love’s story is never old; there is no such thing as old Eros (who, by the way, was very much a little boy blue opening the Olympic ceremonies at the 2004 Olympic games held in Athens that year!)
The moon’s soul, already a woman of high fashion is clothed in the sun—how it is for her historically in the religious imagination of pagan antiquity. The ‘woman clothed in the sun’ is a personified notion whose myth unfolds the heavenly love affair imagined in the spiritual realm of the fixed stars beyond life and death and the visible sun and moon.
But, this is also how the image of a woman clothed in the sun, a parthenos, can come to represent the fantasy of male maternity and allow human men who are really giving birth to their own solar images of god insist (and often through clashes of violent force) they know what the divine intends for all. Likewise, their own dogmatic and spiritual senses for reigns and rules overlay what this goes on to mean in the codes we are to live.
The image of the woman clothed in the sun is also, of course, the Christmas story we celebrate this time of year in the form of the Nativity story. The point made here is that the sun/moon imagery has its root in pagan bridal mysticism. That is the source and myth to which the tired images return for renewal in meaning again and again or return to fail in their sensual gestures to restore any meaning to our lives whatsoever.
The early notion hidden in the timeless story, however, suggests the possibility of a respite and a place of restoration. It suggests we let an imaginal ‘be’ come and in coming to be imaginally, let it (however briefly) clothe us like a moon is clothed with the gentler sun in a world now three times dark. How so?
wear it; how here
how hear it cohere
how say w’here?
delight in the window -poetic fragment, unpublished
The extra days that make and mark the calendar days in an uneven manner between thirty and thirty one days and one month as 28 days and 29 days every fourth year are reckoned neatly and then dissolve back into unaccountable days in accrual. These are the sacred days.
These days are torn by birds scratching out the “I”; these days are the holy blue ones; they carry our festival soul on the night wind and it is this soul who is re-membering again what sings in and out of life the magic beyond origins under night’s garment of stars. The stars are fixed stars according to the religious imagination. The depths of the heavens are writ again with the strewn seeds of pneumatic life. The spirit of the unnameable divine spark sows and blows and goes how it goes.
Under the twin lunar natures of the secular and the religious attitudes and in-between them, the blue moon magic of the old night year will be a light and a way in/to the young-eyed unborn world of our inmost transfigurations. The irony of this month in the year 2009 is that “a cold winter moon” will carry us from the night of December 1st up to the second moon and through “a long winter’s night”. Right smack in the middle is the Yule in which the celebrity ‘birth of light’—the image ignites in the religious imagination and the civic one the conjoint ritual celebration —what we often call ‘the holidays’. The third moon name for the full moon this month, the ‘moon before Yule’ is imaginal not a literal moon and the transfigural image carries the season’s blue soul. I would like to suggest the name of this moon beginning from the Christian era on is Mary. Mary is the Christmas Moon.
I’ve a rare intuition about this situation this year. It proffers in my poetic space a fantasy suggestion in the third name for the moon, the moon before yule. It suggests a fullness, the ‘awareness-in-a-whereness’ in-spired and inspirational i.e. a divine insight, an in-sight that is an in-site, too, a place of birth, a spiritual home for the holidays. It is the temple of one’s own soul.
Already there is a space for the development of this house suggested. It is like the fantasy house in ‘Bethlehem’, the inn, full already with no more in-room to be had. The story no longer simply affirms the earthly polis of David’s house and kingly lineage i.e. a male maternity, a ‘house’ of David. One also might glimpse the quickening of an unnameable god’s creative excess.
It is this creative overflow happening outside creation’s moment of origination in events themselves that may be what begins to ferment and to matter, if the material imagination is to be believed. When an event changes everything you see, no more inn-room gives way to no more in-room. The birth place is an animal cave of human flesh and within it and undercover of night there is a lighting up of divine nature from within the cave beneath the robe of night’s starry garment. This is soul-making’s first task, to make out sides ’in’ and where things are to light up from within themselves.
So, likewise, is this imagination’s work. Imagination must tear apart old images and clear space for the new “inn”, the temple of your soul where a birth that is spiritually eco-sustainable must and will have already taken place in the Christmas cave of the winter moon that reappears “out of the blue”. The Christmas moon is like a woman whose light is the clothing of the yet unnameable, unforeseeable newborn sun. She’s pregnant with it.
Bethlehem is not a place, then, in this sense but indicates a taking place outside the inn under cover of night. I mean to suggest here ‘a house that is not a house’ and an “in” that is not an inn. I mean to suggest a placeless place, an invisible body like is a pane of glass whose ‘soul’ lights up a flowing through, a pane where images take shape and where divinity’s birth is already a sensible, invisible and indivisible root in the groundless ground of one’s being that makes itself in-visible, however briefly, by reflection.
Bethlehem’s night pane or cave, the imaginal one, can already be sensed. It can be felt. Even if it can’t be pinned in location, it can be paned on location locating itself ‘flowing through.’ It ought not be pinned to anything, you see, since the aionios nature of this placeless place or khôra (i.e. a material imagination) is also a largesse helping us find our way back in/to the ave cave, the metaphor of the pane, the heavenly inn, the “in-most inn” who is a lodge within the unfathomable disappearance of the moon into darkness because she is a woman, when she reappears clothed in the very so(u)l we seek. The metaphor is as if a call to venture outdoors and relive into night’s timing at play in-between the beat of love’s rhythm throughout the story.
In timeless times, the poet sings of a story told a shepherd by the wind in which a hidden happening shielded by night’s dark garment shimmers in a tide of joy that overfills the cup of heaven. The poet calls this cup a Gloria. This is the lighting up moment from within the image itself; it is a casting of a glow that overfills its own createdness. The overflow drips down from heaven filling the ear of shepherds upturned like a cup to hear it. The image 'heres' what the shepherds 'he(a)rd'. There is a pun in the high note, you see? The shepherd is the one already tending the animal soul grazing high upon hillsides. And the poet, mirroring the response of shepherds to this unsounded song echoes their reply, “Angels, we have heard on high.”
The shepherds receive the Gloria from on high through the angels while they tend the animals grazing the high hills. But, they are told that the happening has really happened in the vale of the land in the cup of a cave. That means the birth place of the Christmas story, ‘Bethlehem’ may have been reimagining some new metaphor or seeing through a very old one in a new way giving shape to a celestial body in a heavenly earth simultaneously. (aka such as is a moon that is a star) Now, and forever more one might imagine it happens still this way in the heavenly life under our own poetic shades in soul-making. If ‘as above, so below’ the black old magic claimed then, “Do you see what I see,” the sign, the season, the hour it is? For just now the moon waxes toward full for the second time this month. It is the time of the heavenly Christmas moon. That is the image from the Christmas story that in-spires the turn this essay has taken.
The night wind calls out in the way the third moon name, “moon before yule” suggests; the fullness of the moon is pregnant with promise in an invisible form, a blue Christmas is tucked underneath the heavenly garment of the goddess, Night. Night’s darkness is ‘pregnant’ with the wind’s song. The song is singing but unsounded, anything can happen; life has potential.
What soul-writ moon in what seed sown so-in-so’s her transparent seeds just before the New Year Yule? Surely, she is, like the seasonal festival, a delicious delight, real soul-food. And this may be just as is the full moon already caught shining in the winter window the first day of this last month this year. But then, she must also carry something of the winter moon to come, the one without a month to its name. Our celebrity “in” site is marked with a ‘secret’ timing and ‘sacred’ spacing in the imagination of both our religious and civic heritage.
As I write each of these essays I’ve been trying to keep to the rhythm of the moon to write under its full influence each month of 2009. That is the perspective that provides me the unique twists each turn of essay takes. If I were to write full moon essays next year, each monthly essay would surely take more of this kind of unexpected turn of trope and result in completely different kinds of essays month to month. Such is the way of a musing life. You have to make time for it lest you miss its life entirely!
This month it seems right given the now ‘three’ moons of December, 2009 to write inclusive of the hidden third by calling the full moon this month “Christmas Moon”. For this title seems to honor the spirit hidden everywhere and shining nowhere of which this December speaks.
The Christmas Moon
It is my good fortune to discover the work of Hugo Rahner who writes with regards the Christian mystery of the Christmas Moon in Greek Myths and Christian Mystery.2 The world of moon symbolism that belongs to early Christians he says is the world of Greco-Roman culture. The image of the love story of the sun and moon is inherited from the Greek culture. In this inheritance the sun is called Helios and the moon, Selene.
Rahner, in essence, says the story is no longer understandable to us the way it was understood as far back as the middle ages and this because science and technology, positivism and rationalism begin to dominate the western world’s perceptions which have broken from the status of soul-making the Greek myth once understood. The sense encountered in the pagan world seems and feels differently in antiquity. It is my suggestion that something of then operates unwittingly now and does not have to be believed for it to operate this way in coming to presence our world today. It is also my suggestion something understood now has broken with the status of the Christian appropriation of the pagan mytheme in the turn it made then to make that turn in the Christian myth improper to the telling in the way life is coming to presence now. I can imagine looking up and ‘in’ to the night heaven unto the light just getting here born to a world long ago and still not be out of line with modern science who tells the story of light’s travels nor psychology telling the story of the ancestral soul of the world. But, what of the religious imagination and what of myth; what story does the myth tell to the spiritual nature of a man and a woman now?
Rahner quotes the apologist Theophilus of Antioch. ‘These lights, the sun and the moon, enact and show forth a great mystery. The sun is an image of God, the moon of man.’ Plotinus has the last words here says Rahner. The unnameable god is pure original light, indivisible and invisible; this light illuminates the logos, the logos is the sun and this sun illuminates the in-most part that is a man’s soul. I can only wonder here how a man’s soul and a woman’s sol are to keep to an intuited dialectical discourse and resist a discursive logic. For when this notion goes on to form Christ’s church the reference to the mystery nature of the solar woman disappears, i.e. the logical life becomes discursive. Rahner continues the Plotinian vision of the Christmas moon.
The in-most part of man’s soul is the spirit of man by which he partakes in the divine. That spirit is the moon. This ‘moon’ on earth becomes the Christian church where Nativity’s light celebrates at midnight and throughout Christmas Day, Christ-mas(s).
But, the moon’s story told this way seems to eventually steal Ge’s maternal and solar woman and appropriates the spiritual and solar womb as specific to the male body. If this is so, it changes the Christmas moon who is a woman clothed in the sun i.e. a solar female, divine in her own birth rites and rights from the beginning. The story changes by pinning the image to a single, analogical interpretation, a story of male maternity. The civic story reveals how god becomes a man literally to claim dominion over Ge materially and spiritually for all time. The nature of the story of the birth of light reveals underneath it an autochthony told to favor man’s conscious ascent literally as rulers over all the earth and even the women of the earth in their own maternity rights.
And Rahner goes on
Thus when the Christian of that day sought to give expression to the kind of relationship which, his faith declared, subsisted between god and man, he was bold enough and free enough (italics mine) to avail himself this Hellenistic astronomical symbol and take from it whatever helped him—by way of image or comparison— to visualize the supernatural in some kind of symbolic form.
It seems to me Rahner describes what imagination is to do once more. It is to once more take from whatever helps it, by way of image analogies to undo the way the privileged turn made here laid claim in the fantasy of male maternity. Plotinus called that ‘casting a glow’ in the fifth Ennead Rahner says. The unnameable god is a light whose logos is a sun in whose in-most part resides the spirit who is a moon giving birth to pneumatic nature. But as the story unfolds it privileges the role the lunar male plays over that role played by the solar female underneath the garment of the night world in psyche’s psyche. Beyond that however the story imagines moon-grammar as the way in to a divine experience of the unnameable experience of god. And, perhaps it may be a reunion is in the making here from within the in-most nature of our in-most liveliness.
The Stars Are Lovers Too
The birth of Christ retold by Rahner uses the writing of apologist Theophilus of Antioch and Plotinus and is rooted in the love story of Helios and Selene. Their story belongs to a bridal mystery story exchanged between a divine pair of siblings. It is Selene who receives the light within herself and who passes this light to the heavenly stars, doing so in the dark moment of her own disappearance. This disappearance which happens at the dark of the moon when the moon is closest to the sun is imagined as the mystical love union. It is called in early Christianity a synodos, a greek word that depicts a coming together.
The mystery disappearance of the moon happens in the arms of her lover, the sun and her renewal and return as pregnant maiden, a woman clothed in the sun with the moon at her feet, manifests in the garment of night writ with shiny-seeded stars. Through the sun, the moon that is not a star becomes the greatest star hanging in the night heavens.
As a star-woman she has lead, it is imagined, the very stars in the round dance of lovers. It is a night processional moving toward the beloved who is not visible nor who never rose when the sun rose nor set at sunset. The Beloved is the unnameable light not visible as the sun but is rather, the indivisible one in which the two and the many come together in turn and, in delight, partake.
It is the logos, the sun who rises and sets not the Light by which the logos comes and goes. The moon mingles the light by which the logos comes and goes with her own earthy, elemental form, her material imagination. The material imagination remembers her waters of life that mediate and soften the divine light to make it a bearable glow or even ‘flow’. She is this newer, gentler and more bearable, watery and lovely lady dressed in blue but she is also a moon without a month. You may recognize this woman as Mary and this story of the child born at night as the Christmas story but did you know it was once thought the color blue, was warm and wet and not quite the cold color it is thought to be today? That notion likewise began in the moon. Rahner explains
In the synodos of the new moon Selene becomes a giver of water. Dew is created which she causes to drip down; because of the mixture of elements [she is]3 it is ‘warm and wet’ and a begetter of life upon the earth; it brings about the growth of the plants and the growth of beasts and makes it possible for human mothers to bear children. That is why her light is soft and as it were, female. She is the mistress over all the waters and the vital principle of all births.
The image of the child born at night to Mary, meek and mild is a lover’s story. Mary is the personified notion of the moon before Yule. But the task, ah, the task is a labor three times dark and the story is ever unfolding (even now) under a Christmas Moon.
All that Mary holds within the womb
She holds like you and I, under this heart
Its past still present
This labor three times dark
With little room to bear
This birth that sleeps in all
And opens us to each
Consider the Veni, Redemptor Gentium
of St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397) “Procedat e thalamo suo, pudoris aula regia,geminae gigas substantiae alacris ut currat viam.” Proceeding from His chamber free that royal home of purity a giant in twofold substance one, rejoicing now His course to run
.[bold type mine] See the on line Thesaurus Precum Latinarum, http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/VeniRedemptorG.html
2 New York: Harper & Row, 1971, pp. 157-167.
3 The insertion here is mine. The dew and the woman are this begetter not the dew alone. She is ‘warm and wet’ throughout the depths of her inmost being because of the weave or ‘mixture of elements’ i.e. because of the way they are dispersed throughout her being. This is a poetic point. Her light is female because she is female psyche and female nature. The image is an image of feminine desire.